Bringing the Past into the Present: Cinematic Representation of History in Turkey since the mid-1990s

Esin Paca Cengiz

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Historicizing plays a crucial role in the building of nation-states, and during the nation-building process, dominant forms of history have promoted certain ethnicities and cultures over others insofar as the nation relied upon those ‘official’ histories which asserted the ‘continuity’ and ‘progress’ of a particular social group. However, through the agency of films in contemporary Turkey, contested versions of the past are coming to light and challenging the dominant discourses on history that have imagined the nation as a homogeneous entity and national history as a set of ‘glorious’ moments. As a result, the historical film form in Turkey has emerged as a site for the exploration of history, memory, trauma and historical representation in relation to the discourses that surround these fields. In this regard, this thesis examines cinematic representations of history in Turkey through an exploration of the similar and disparate ways that filmic representations since the mid-1990s have attempted to come to terms with the dark moments of the national past. By delving into the intimate and intricate relationship between history, memory, trauma and cinematic representation, this study proposes that the filmic representations of the past in Turkey that have been produced in the last two decades do not consolidate or challenge conventional ways of engaging with the past solely through their subject-matters and themes. In contrast, these films tend to either bolster or undermine traditional discourses on historical representation through the forms they deploy. By examining the cinematic treatment of both conventional stories and the traumatic moments of the national past, this thesis brings to the fore three divergent tendencies in representations of the past in contemporary cinema in Turkey and identifies a new historical film form which offers a critical route for engaging with questions about representations of the past in narratives, histories and films.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hill, John, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • history
  • memory
  • historical film
  • trauma
  • historical representation

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